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Parents involvement in schools

Published (3/23/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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Parents could collectively work for change in education.

Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) sponsors HF2580, which would empower parents in chronically low-performing districts to petition their school boards for reform. A majority of parents would agree on one of four intervention models proposed in the bill, such as school restart and closure, which the board would be required to implement.

The House Education Finance Committee approved the bill March 15 and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Parents urged members to support an increase in their involvement in schools, which they said would share the burden of reform between educators and local families.

“I can tell you that nothing hurts me more than looking at my kids and telling them there’s nothing I can do,” said Randel Pronschinske, a Lakeville parent.

Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) praised the bill’s intent, adding that he felt it did not take drastic enough action to help parents speak out in failing districts.

“Frankly, I’m shocked that we haven’t moved stronger in this direction previously,” he said.

School administrators and educators questioned the logistics and funding for these petitions. They also cautioned against a series of unintended consequences the bill could produce.

Roger Aronson, legal counsel for both the Minnesota Association for Secondary School Principals and the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association, said the bill lacked flexibility and would “trigger rigid reform” in districts that parents might not expect or want.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) complimented Loon’s idea to involve parents in key education decisions, but said he was unsure about the method outlined in the bill.

“We’re new in this area and for us to implement those into state statute, I think, is a very premature step,” Mariani said.

The companion, sponsored by Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.

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